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N.C. cellphone case company says it didn't violate trademark

A North Carolina business that manufactures protective cases for smartphones is taking the offensive against accusations that it infringed a competitor's trademark of a case with a similar name. The company, Universal Mania Inc., has filed a lawsuit seeking a declaration that its case did not infringe on a copyright belonging to Otter Products LLC, an out-of-state business.

The business litigation is over a pair of protective cases that consumers slip over their iPhones and other smartphones to protect them in case they are dropped or a similar accident occurs. Repairing a smartphone can cost hundreds of dollars, making the market for the cases potentially lucrative for manufacturers.

Universal makes a case it calls "Defender," which retails for $16.99 on the business' online store. In a letter sent to the company and dated Oct. 31, 2012, a rival company called Otter Products claimed that it also produces a protective case called Defender and that it registered its device's trademark before Universal began marketing its version. Otter threatened to sue over the alleged trademark infringement and included a draft a complaint that it planned to file in federal court.

Otter has yet to file the litigation, but Universal apparently has decided to head off that possibility by filing its own lawsuit. The company contends that it is not seeking to mislead consumers into thinking they are purchasing an Otter case, which is called the Otterbox Defender and retails for up to $50. Trademark law cases often center around an alleged attempt to use another product's name without the manufacturer's permission.

Source: Triangle Business Journal, "N.C. company sues iPhone case maker," Chris Bagley, Feb. 12, 2013

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N.C. cellphone case company says it didn't violate trademark | Britton Law, P.A.